Paddleton was my favorite flick from Sundance this year. I won’t give much preface, other than a few interesting tidbits the writers (Mark Duplass, Alexandre Lehmann) gave during the q&a.
They wrote the story and characters for the film, but left much of the dialogue unwritten, leaving Duplass and Ray Romano ad-libbing much of the dialogue as they shot.
One of the cooler things they shared about the inspiration for the film was that their (the writers’) lives are filled with all of these cool opportunities, like making films and participating in things like Sundance, and they wanted to imagine characters who shared none of their goals and accomplishments and ask, for these characters, “what is a life well lived?”
A lot of people I know tell me that my jokes are usually “Dad jokes.” I have always kind of liked Dad jokes, but when people tell you this, they’re usually doing it the way they would tell you there’s a piece of spinach stuck in your teeth, as if you should be embarrassed about your sense of humor.
It has been a really long time since I saw Ray Romano’s sitcom, but I remember really enjoying it, and I am pretty sure it was mostly Dad jokes.
I don’t know if there is a formal definition that scientists use to classify Dad jokes and distinguish them from other jokes, but my sense is that one of the key features of Dad jokes is goofiness.
Dad jokes are rarely mean (maybe so as not to encourage children to adopt mean behavior?). Instead, they’re usually more sweet and goofy.
And I think Romano’s sense of humor plays really, really well against the backdrop of terminal cancer.
I always thought that laughing and joking in the face of certain death (the human condition) was one of the most courageous acts. This is a somewhat difficult claim to argue, but Paddleton does a nice job of making the case for it.
A few weeks ago, I had this related thought, that goofiness is one of the most authentic forms of intimacy. It’s a liberty we take when we’re in the company of those we feel most comfortable with.
And, maybe we get embarrassed on behalf of other people who take the liberty of being goofy in front of us before we’re ready for that kind of intimacy (hence, people calling you out when you make a Dad joke).
When we’re goofy, we drop our gravity and cast aside our public image. It’s disarming, when you do it genuinely (and maybe a tactic when you do it as a broadcast public act, like when politicians show up on Saturday Night Live, or at a roast, where it feels like a power move).
Mostly, I think most of us tend to be goofy with just a few close friends around. And I wonder if this is a sort of antidote to the pervasive veil of irony that seems inescapable in most modern media (and most of the humor you’d hear in a more public social context, with a broader group of friends you’re not as tight with).
Some of the times I’ve laughed hardest most recently have been the result of being goofy with my closest friends.
My sister got a vacuum sealing device, and we went to the bodega with a few friends in search of strange objects to vacuum seal: marshmallows, bags of potato chips, peanut shells, etc. We happened to discover a 25c bag of Lays Classic potato chips that had zero chips in it – but was sealed and filled with air. This felt like a glitch in the matrix, which had slipped through every industrial assembly and quality assurance process you have to imagine Lays has perfected, and we estimated it was at least 100x – if not 10,000x – more valuable than the standard chip bag filled with chips. We considered calling the evening news to report the finding, and debated whether or not we should vacuum seal this bag.
Pros: preserve the anomalous bag in it’s pristine state.
Cons: risk accidental destruction of the remarkable artifact and lose proof of our discovery.
Who would believe us if we were to destroy the bag?
We opted not to risk the vacuum sealing.
The way you laugh during an escapade like this feels different than the way you laugh at ironic humor. Ironic humor garners a knowing smile, maybe a chuckle, usually a sort of self-confident and smug, reserved reaction.
Laughing at goofy humor can make you lose your breath, can make your cheeks hurt, your stomach sore. It puts you in a more vulnerable state.
I hope I am never too cool to be goofy, too cool for Dad jokes.